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Nithsdale Monitor Farm Opens its Gates for Open Farm Sunday

The Marchant family from Clonhie Farm

The Marchant family, who run Clonhie Farm, the Nithsdale Monitor farm, near Thornhill, are looking forward to welcoming visitors to their farm for LEAF Open Farm Sunday on 9 June.

This will be the first time the family have taken part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday and they are excited about inspiring the next generation through their passion for their business and way of life.

Andrew, Aileen and their two young children, William (9) and Anna (6), have been farming in their own right since 2012 when they took on the tenancy of the 93 hectares at Clonhie from the Buccleuch Estate. Keen to expand their business, they took on a further 210 hectares in 2016.

The Marchants have built their business steadily by improving the upland grazing and increasing ewe numbers to 1,000. They have also established a small herd of 20 Luing suckler cows and, most recently, diversified into venison production with a herd of 150 red deer hinds in partnership with the Buccleuch Estate.

Passionate about the welfare and quality of livestock they produce, the family are keen to educate the general public about livestock farming and are looking forward to supporting farming’s annual open day by opening their farm gates on 9 June.

Aileen Marchant, who is a teacher at Wallace Hall Academy and leads the school’s successful Rural Skills programme, said: “I know through my work at school that visiting a farm is a totally different experience from classroom learning and we are keen to give as many people as possible the opportunity to come on farm and see for themselves what we are doing here.”

LEAF Open Farm Sunday continues to grow in Scotland, developing stronger links between farmers, smallholders and consumers. In the last five years, more than 80,800 people have visited events in Scotland, with between 15 and 30 farmers opening their gates each year.

Scottish LEAF Open Farm Sunday Co-ordinator Rebecca Dawes encouraged anyone interested in knowing more about farming to get involved. She said: “LEAF Open farm Sunday is a fantastic opportunity for everyone, young and old, to discover at first-hand what it means to be a farmer and the fabulous work they do producing our food, enhancing the countryside and all the goods and services farmers provide.”

The Marchant family have devised a packed programme of activities for the day, which runs at Clonhie from 11am to 2pm, and Aileen Marchant thinks that they can will be able to accommodate around 200 visitors during the day.

She said: “The main focus is education, but it will be a fun day as well. Farming is not always a career considered for children but days like this may light a spark of interest in the young people and also let the parents see that farming and the wider food and drink industry can be a good career choice offering an excellent variety of career opportunities.”

Those who visit Clonhie on 9 June will have the opportunity to visit the deer as part of a tractor and trailer ride, the chance to get up close with sheep and cattle in the sheds, see a clipping demonstration and have a lesson on handling wool and discovering its different uses.

Farmers are also passionate about the vital role they play in safeguarding the environment. Clonhie farm has a network of ponds and wildlife areas, so guided walks will be available with a science-based experiment half-way round looking into habitats and water quality. There will also be fun activities including face painting, wellie-flinging and a quiz. 

Mrs Marchant commented: “I don’t have a farming background, so not only was I thinking what my young children would like to see and do on a visit, I was thinking about the sort of questions I would ask!

“As the Nithsdale Monitor Farm, we are used to hosting regular meetings at Clonhie, including an annual open meeting which attracts around 100 people. The monitor farm meetings are all farm focussed though, so this is very different; we hope to attract the wider non-farming community from Thornhill and Dumfries who may never have set foot on a farm before or given much thought as to where their food comes from.”

As new entrants to farming, Andrew and Aileen have had to work hard to build up their farming business. The couple are determined to succeed and drive their business forward and care passionately about the welfare of their animals and looking after the countryside. They appreciate the chance that the Buccleuch Estate have given them by awarding the tenancy in the first place, but also for the support they have had from organisations such as Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and local people.

Mrs Marchant said: “This is an amazing industry to be part of, everyone has been so helpful and supportive. We are exceptionally proud to be part of the farming community now and would love to encourage more people into farming through initiatives such as LEAF Open Farm Sunday.”

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk.

To find the details of the farms opening near you visit www.farmsunday.org or for more information on how to host an event for LEAF Open Farm Sunday this year or next, contact Rebecca Dawes 07792 467730 or ofsrc.scotland@gmail.com.